Times Mirror Co.

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The Times Mirror Company was first incorporated in 1884 as the parent company of the Los Angeles Times ; this collaboration was founded in 1881 by the Los Angeles Daily Times and its printer, the Mirror Printing and Binding House. The company was founded by Civil War veteran General Harrison Gray Otis who had moved to California and made a fortune in real estateand Colonel H. H. Boyce. Otis bought out Boyce two years later and then became the newspaper's president, general manager, and editor-in-chief.

Los Angeles was a small, sleepy town in the late nineteenth century, and the Times's circulation was less than 7,000 in 1890. In 1894 Henry Chandler became Otis's son-in-law. The two men would run the newspaper until Otis's death in 1917, whereupon Chandler would become president, general manager, and publisher of the Times for three decades. Descendants of Otis and Chandler would hold a controlling interest in the Times Mirror Company throughout the twentieth century.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the Times could boast it carried more advertising than any other newspaper in the world. By 1905 annual gross revenues topped $1 million. Throughout the century the newspaper grew with the city it served, publishing its first article on movie making in 1909 and its first movie review in 1913. (From 1922 to 1927 it even owned and operated the first commercial radio station in Los Angeles County.) The newspaper was known for its right wing, anti-union stance, and the company succeeded in keeping unions out of the Times in spite of a union-planted bomb that destroyed the Times building in 1910. The Times achieved notoriety in 1935, when it ran faked photos of pro-unionist author Upton Sinclair (18781968), who was running for governor of California.

Norman Chandler, Henry Chandler's son, became general manager in 1936, president and general manager in 1941, and assumed the title of publisher when his father died in 1944. That year the company also began publishing The Mirror, a tabloid-sized afternoon daily. In 1948 Times Mirror acquired its newsprint supplier, Publishers Paper Company, which was based in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Additionally, the newspaper company co-owned, along with CBS, television station KTTV, The station made its first telecast, the Rose Parade from Pasadena, California in 1949. The next year Times Mirror bought out CBS's interest in the station, and the Times began printing a daily television schedule.

At the end of the 1950s circulation of the Times stood at an average of 500,000 daily and 900,000 on Sundays. In addition to owning the Times, The Mirror, and KTTV, Times Mirror was active in paper manufacturing and commercial printing. As well, KTTV was renamed Times-Mirror Broadcasting Company once Times Mirror achieved full ownership in 1959.

In 1960 a period of acquisitions began for Times Mirror as Otis Chandler, grandson of Henry Chandler, succeeded Norman Chandler as the fourth publisher of the Times. The company ventured into book publishing when it acquired The New American Library in 1960. For the first time more than half of the company's net income came from non-newspaper sources. Annual revenues were more than $112 million, up from over $97 million the previous year.

Numerous acquisitions made in different areas of book and information publishing during the 1960s included Jeppensen and Co. (1961), a leading publisher of air navigation information (which became Jeppensen Sanderson in 1984); H. M. Goush Company (1961), a producer of travel maps; legal publisher, Matthew Bender and Co. (1963); The World Publishing Company (1963), publisher of Webster's New World Dictionary ; The Sun Company (1964), publisher of the San Bernardino Sun-Telegram ; Year Book Medical Publishers (1965); art book publisher Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (1966); and medical publisher The C. V. Mosby Company (1967). During the decade the company also purchased several lumber and pulp companies for its newsprint operations. In 1964 its stock became publicly traded on the New York and Pacific Exchanges.

By 1966 the Los Angeles Times was the nation's largest standard-size metropolitan newspaper in weekday circulation. In 1967 Times Mirror branched out into magazine publishing with the acquisition of Popular Science and Outdoor Life, followed by Golf and Ski magazines in 1972, all of which led to the creation of Times Mirror Magazines. In 1969 the company entered cable television with the purchase of CoAxial Systems Engineering Company in Palos Verdes, California, with a base of 5,700 subscribers and seven cable franchises.

As the Los Angeles Times passed the one million mark in weekday circulation in 1970, its parent company continued to acquire newspapers, magazines, television stations, cable companies, printing companies, publishers, and other businesses throughout the decade. In 1972 the Times Mirror became the largest publicly held publishing company in the United States, based on revenues and net income. By 1977 operating revenues exceeded $1 billion. Key acquisitions made during the 1970s included Long Island's suburban newspaper, Newsday (1970); the Dallas Times Herald (1970); Long Island Cablevision Corporation (1970); KDFW-TV in Dallas (1970); KTBC-TV in Austin, Texas (1973) (purchased from former First-Lady Lady Bird Johnson); The Sporting News Publishing Company (1977); The (Stamford) Advocate (1977); and, in 1979, the Hartford Courant (which was founded in 1764 and the nation's oldest continuously published newspaper.

Further acquisitions were made in the 1980s and included The Denver Post (1980); The Morning Call (1984), which served a nine-county region in eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey; Xerox Learning Systems (1985); The A. S. Abell Co., publisher of The Baltimore Sun, for $600 million (1986); scientific, technical, and medical journal publisher CRC Press, Inc. (1986); and National Journal (1986), which published for government officials and decision-makers. In 1987 the Times Mirror Co. acquired the magazines Field and Stream, Home Mechanix, Skiing, and Yachting from Diamandis Communications Inc. In 1988 college textbook publisher Richard D. Irwin was purchased from Dow Jones and Co. for $135 million, and Salt Water Sportsman was added to the Times Mirror Magazine group.

Several properties were also sold during the 1980s, including the struggling Dallas Times Herald for $110 million in 1986, and The Denver Post in 1987. Times Mirror divested 80 percent of its ownership in Publishers Paper Co. in 1986 and sold its directory printing company Times Mirror Press to GTE Directories Corporation in 1988.

Revenues continued to grow during the 1980s. Times Mirror reported more than $3 billion in revenues for the first time in 1987, while revenues for the Los Angeles Times exceeded $1 billion for the first time in 1988. Between 1986 and 1989 Times Mirror sold off more than $1 billion in assets and spent $750 million on acquisitions to refocus on its core print and electronic media businesses. For the entire decade the company spent $1.5 billion on acquisitions, and capital expenditures totaled $2.5 billion.

Despite its revenue growth, acquisitions, and capital expenditures, the company began to struggle financially in the 1990s. The decade began with a nationwide advertising slump that adversely affected revenues in the company's newspaper and magazine operations. New York Newsday, which was launched in 1985 to serve the city's Brooklyn and Queens boroughs, continued to lose money. The company posted a net loss of $66.6 million for 1992. After revenues fell to a five-year low of $3.36 billion in 1994 and the company's earnings per share fell by more than 15 percent, Mark Willes was brought in as president and chief executive officer (CEO). On January 1, 1996, he would succeed Robert Erburu as chairman of the board. In 1997 Willes also became publisher of the Los Angeles Times, where he oversaw drastic cuts in personnel. (Willes had earned a reputation for ruthless cost-cutting as vice chairman of General Mills, Inc., where he was known as "The Cereal Killer.")

Meanwhile, Times Mirror had agreed in 1994 to merge its cable television operations with Cox Communications Inc. for $2.3 billion, and that same year the company sold its four broadcast television stations. Within months of coming on board, Willes shut down the money-losing New York Newsday and the evening edition of The Baltimore Sun. One thousand jobs were cut, many of them at the Los Angeles Times, where certain sections of the newspaper were eliminated.

In 1996 Times Mirror exited the college textbook publishing business by exchanging Shepard's (a leading legal citation service), owned by McGraw-Hill Companies, for its Higher Education Group, which consisted of Richard D. Irwin, William C. Brown, Irwin Professional Publishing, Brown and Benchmark, and Mosby College. Shepard's then joined forces with medical and legal citation service Lexis-Nexis in a joint venture between Times Mirror and publisher Reed Elsevier. In 1998 Reed Elsevier would acquire Matthew Bender and the Times Mirror's remaining interest in the joint venture for $1.65 billion.

Other divestitures included selling Harry N. Abrams, Inc. and the National Journal in 1997 and Mosby Inc. in 1998. The sale of Mosby and Matthew Bender in 1998 occurred after Times Mirror attempted to merge the two companies, prompting several Mosby executives to resign. The sales were part of the company's strategy to exit professional book publishing. The sale of Mosby contributed to increases in earnings and revenues for 1998, with Times Mirror reporting a jump in net income to $1.42 billion from $250.3 million in 1997, while revenues rose from $2.9 billion in 1997 to $3 billion in 1998. Late in 1998 the company announced it would launch a new magazine, Outdoor Explorer, its first major publication launch since New York Newsday in 1986.

Since 1995 Times Mirror had executed a strategy of exiting non-core businesses, streamlining operations, and reinvigorating its existing businesses to achieve improved financial performance. That left the news and information company with three business segments: newspaper publishing, professional information and training, and magazine publishing.

See also: Publishing Industry


Kreig, Andrew. Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper. Old Saybrook, CT: Peregrine Press, 1987.

Neuwirth, Robert. "LA Times Cuts 94." Editor and Publisher, January 2, 1999.

"Robust Competitors." Advertising Age, November 16, 1998.

Schwirlz, Mira. "Talk of the Town." Brandweek, March 8, 1999.

"Times Mirror History," [cited January 26, 1999] available from the World Wide Web @ www.tm.com/about/History/.